May was bustling with high-profile comebacks, and June is looking to be equally if not more packed. The K-pop release frenzy of summer is upon us, but with this many fun comebacks to choose from, that’s nothing to complain about.
This month’ s Unsung Artists fall neatly into two categories: breezy spring-typical tracks and moody outliers. What they share are earworm hooks, from the belted refrain of “Wind and Wish,” to the unrelenting anti-drop momentum of “Eve, Psyche & The Bluebeard’s wife,” to the refreshing yet melodramatic melodies of “Bon Voyage.” With options for every genre and mood preference, it’s likely one or more of these May standouts will end up stuck in your head for months to come.
BtoB – “Wind And Wish”
“Wind And Wish” opens with a ringing “Woo Ah Woah,” announcing the return of BtoB’s full, formidable vocal line in Eunkwang, Changsub, Hyunsik, and Sungjae. Together with Minhyuk and Peniel, BtoB are making their first comeback on the other side of enlistments, and as a six-member group following Ilhoon’s 2020 departure. “Wind And Wish” feels like a homecoming kind of song, BtoB doing what they do best, which is to say emanating warmth and singing like nobody’s business.
The song itself strikes an occasionally shaky but largely successful balance between happy-go-lucky and melancholy. BtoB serenade an ex, sending their best wishes on the wind even as they regret the failure of their romance. As the track bounces between nostalgic crooning and staccato party vibes, the MV’s visuals do the same, smiling dance sequences interspersed with brooding group shots, and sunlit sets alternating with swaths of twilight and black and white. By the end, BtoB are laughing in even the moodier environments, a likely intentional detail. The transition between different elements isn’t always smooth, but a message of hard-won wisdom knits every part of “Wind And Wish” into a convincing whole, and feels like an authentic angle for the group to take. After a memorable appearance on 2021’s Kingdom, BtoB are experiencing a career resurgence. “Wind And Wish” proves once again why that’s so richly deserved.
Colde ft. Lee Chanhyuk – “Heartbreak Club”
The dimly lit components that make up “Heartbreak Club” aren’t new, like so-awkward-its-cool party scenes and Cupid’s arrow tableaus. But put together with this level of panache, and backed by the track’s self-pityingly seductive groove, Colde and Lee Chanhyuk (of AKMU)’s collaboration is irresistible. Its lyrics are biting, narrating Colde’s induction into a universal club of beleaguered exes:
As if I was abandoned by the world yeah
Or as if I lost all my possessions yeah
All look like me
Everything fuck off is useless, don’t talk to me about love
We’re all done yeah
The song’s production is deceptively complex, with swirling water sounds and rap samples tucked amidst the grinding bassline. Capturing at once the painful relatability and individualized torture of a bad breakup, “Heartbreak Club” is introspective yet deliciously wicked.
Aimers – “Bubble”
Some concepts have years of built-in lore. Some concepts push the aesthetic envelope. And some concepts are simply “Bubble.” Six-member boy group Aimers’ bouncy track is exactly what it says on the package, three minutes of bubblegum pop with a titular shout-sung refrain that is guaranteed to invade your subconscious. Flip a coin to determine if that will delight or infuriate you.
In all seriousness though, alongside the shocking effectiveness of bubbles as a pretty prop, what brings this song to a stop-and-take-notice level is the members’ infectiously joyful delivery. The key to selling a bright concept is to look like you’re having the time of your life. That’s much, much tougher than it sounds, but Aimers make it look easy, breezy, and yes, bubbly.
Le Sserafim – “Eve, Psyche & The Bluebeard’s wife”
Viewer warning: flashing strobe lights
While Le Sserafim’s latest title track, “Unforgiven,” is a perfectly fun but uninspiring re-tread of past releases, b-side “Eve, Psyche & The Bluebeard’s wife” is electrifying. Perhaps as a result of its viral appeal and evident quality, the track got its own MV in the middle of the group’s May promotion cycle. The MV largely focuses on choreography, though it also features some stellar styling (Eunchae’s hime space buns and Yunjin’s short suit are especially inspired) and an effective mix of minimalist interior and exterior locations.
The real star is the song’s lyrics and matching defiant attitude. The title evokes three infamous women censored for their curiosity: biblical Eve, Greek mythology’s Psyche, and the heroine of French folktale Bluebeard. Le Sserafim spin these stories away from their traditional interpretations, instead defiantly identifying with Eve, Psyche, and Bluebeard’s wife. In one fantastic choreography moment, Eunchae even mimes eating an apple, like Eve in the Garden of Eden. If anything, Le Sserafim’s judgment is turned towards the judgers, those who would dare censure imperfection and inquisitiveness:
It’s fine whatever I do
When I listen to you with an obedient face
Things like that are not okay
I’m the only one that sets my rules yeah
Imma see the forbidden
Never hold back more freely
Compared to “Unforgiven,” “Eve” represents a future for Le Sserafim where they keep the consistency of their confident concept, but move forward in bold ways. Now that’s a door worth flinging open.
Jay Park ft. Zion T. – “Candy”
Despite seeming to step on toes every three seconds, Jay Park has had a long career in the notoriously touchy industry known as K-pop. Why? It comes down to simple truth that may hurt some to hear: he’s good at it. Even back in his earliest days as a member of 2PM, he was recognized for his all-rounder talents, and in his subsequent solo and producing endeavors partway between pop, indie, and hip hop, his quirky creativity and penchant for catchy hooks have flourished.
All that’s on display in “Candy,” an easy-listening track in the best sense of the term. Featuring fellow velvet-voiced weirdo Zion T., and an MV cameo by Oh My Girl’s YooA, “Candy” takes place in a playfully surreal ‘candyholics anonymous’ meeting that quickly evolves into a prom-esque party, that is if prom had dancing minions in pink candyfloss masks. With its smooth, TikTok-ready chorus dance and possible cheeky lyrical reference in “Lend me some sugar baby, I am your neighbor” to OutKast’s iconic 2003 hit “Hey Ya!,” this “Candy” is indeed too sweet to resist.
Dreamcatcher – “Bon Voyage”
Dreamcatcher are nothing if not consistent. Rock influences and fantastical horror are their calling cards, and their distinctive concept has helped them carve out a unique space in K-pop. A downside to this commitment is that amidst K-pop’s two-to-three-comebacks a year grind, it’s not always possible to find new interpretations of such a specific style. Some of Dreamcatcher’s releases bleed together, with little to distinguish them besides a timestamp and slight visual variations.
“Bon Voyage” does not have that problem. While Dreamcatcher have played with contrast before, placing soft verses and pre-choruses alongside hard-hitting refrains, “Bon Voyage” heightens both sides of that equation with excellent results. The track’s verses are downright balladic, and its raging, rock instrument-backed chorus packs a satisfying punch. Both parts are great vocal showcases for Dreamcatcher, and as a bonus, the push-and-pull mirrors the track’s lyrical content as Dreamcatcher swing between complete belief in their fated love and an attempt to say at least a temporary goodbye:
Every cell in me is drawn to you
Even if we’re a little apart, we’re together
Yeah, maybe you don’t, but I love you
Even so, I love you
So I try to leave, as if it’s our last
Drawing a red circle every day
Tell me Bon voyage
For the MV, Dreamcatcher opt for familiar but still striking industrial dystopia-meets-floral settings, that particularly in some members’ single shots, effectively evoke the track’s powerful romanticism. Do we know why there is a vegetation-crowned white puff creature following Dreamcatcher around? I sure don’t. But what is clear is that “Bon Voyage” is a refreshing spin on Dreamcatcher’s signature appeal.
Ab6ix – “Loser”
In “Loser,” Ab6ix are the latest group to hop on the every-season-is-ghoul-season trend. This is not a new tradition (cough, Vixx, cough), but seems to be especially popular amongst currently active idols, with groups like Dreamcatcher, Purple Kiss, and Enhypen incorporating it into their identity, and many others popping by for a comeback or two. That’s what Ab6ix are doing here, alas no surprise as they are a group that has struggled to find a cohesive identity and are therefore in the try-everything-once phase of their career.
Whether the gothic drama of “Loser” is where the group lands long-term, or it’s just another pit stop, it’s working here. Cinematic opening credits find Donghyun, Woojin, and Woong at an ominous funeral, which it soon becomes clear is for Daehwi, now a wispy ghost. As his three members get investigating in hopes of saving him, possibly through time travel, the chorus spells out the predicament:
Lost my way, I’m a loser (loser)
Save me la la la la la la
Darkness is pressing me again
Anyway I’m just a loser loser (I know it)
Speaking of the chorus, it’s one of the prettier hooks to come out of K-pop this year. On the less positive side, “Loser” can be inconsistent. While butterfly motifs, purples skies, and fire-filled graveyards follow through on the promise of the MV’s attention-grabbing start, some of the street-wear styling choices (I’m looking at you, liberal use of shorts) aren’t doing it. The rap-heavy dance break also hits a discordant note. Despite its ups and downs, “Loser’ is a strong outing for Ab6ix, and hopefully the start of a long-awaited upward trajectory for the talented group.